Turn table speed variation question

I've always found that tracks containing sustained piano notes (chords mainly) seem to highlight the smallest variation in platter speed.

However, I do not notice the same speed variations with sustained notes played on any other instruments.

Works well when auditioning turntables, but a PITA when you hit those older, less than stellar recordings, where the tape machine cause the issue.

Wondered if anyone else had the same experience with a different instrument, or is this specific to the piano.

Piano's toughest, but oboe can also be.
Will, I think there is considerable wow on many recordings, and as you suggest, mostly, I think it is from the original tape, but I often wonder how much is due to my turntable and how much is the recording? To sort it out I check the CD of the same lp, and mostly it's on the CD as well, makes it difficult to evaluate the TT unless you know it to be a wow free recording. I use the Feickert platter speed app. to reassure myself that the turntable is not the culprit as well.
Piano is a great way in which to test the speed stability of a turntable, especially if you concentrate on the decay of notes. Very revealing. I suppose any stringed instrument could do the same, but I think that the rapid variations in stylus drag invoked by the attack and then decay of a sustained piano note is just a more severe test.
Lew's right.
Any stringed instrument is particularly sensitive to minute speed deviations.
When I listen to acoustic guitar on my Victor TT-101 DD turntable with unequalled speed accuracy......an off-centre record hole will be mercilessly exposed. :-(
If you hear it with any instrument, you are listening to a less than stellar turntable, which is often the case. A lot of times when you don't hear it, it still exists to a smaller degree. Then, it is more homogenized because it is prevalent to the point that things seem normal. Then, it is exhibited by an overall warmth of sorts caused by a subtle smearing of the micro dynamic sort.

The trick for the turntable is to have enough warmth to sound musical by holding coherence in the presentation, rather than sounding musical by jumbling all the elements together.

Sometimes artefacts of the piano tuning process can cause perceived frequency variation, as each note has multiple strings, and the instrument uses a tempered tuning.

The ideal is a single decaying note on a single plucked or struck string, a guitar or dulcimer,say, with any other strings in the instrument damped.

However, even that has issues regarding whether the deck is the cause, as pitch perception can also change as amplitude decreases.

Then, again, there may be artefacts from the cutting process, which are being perfectly reproduced....

So the effect is not necessarily due to the turntable.


Piano is indeed the toughest, and the greatest source of frustration for me
when listening to vinyl which I consider the superior medium in every other
respect. First of all, you may be particularly sensitive to this type of
distortion; not all listeners are. While the turntable is often a major
contributor to the problem, don't assume that the problem is ALWAYS your
turntable; and you should understand a few things:

Piano (and some mallet instruments) is the only instrument on which
vibrato (deliberate pitch variation used by the player for tone color and
expressiveness) is not possible. A struck piano note sounds with absolute
pitch stability; assuming good tuning of the instrument, of course. In the
case of a badly tuned piano the perceived pitch variation is not vibrato, but
instead, audible "beats" in the pitch caused by incorrect tuning
of the multiple strings designated for each note on the instrument. Every
other pitched instrument is generally played with at least some expressive
vibrato, and even when the musician plays it with a "straight"
tone (no vibrato) there is some pitch variation due to the nature of the
physical process involved in playing it. This very slight pitch variation is not
perceived as such, but simply as a contributor to the instrument's unique
sound, and allows for a bit of latitude when judging pitch compared to the
rock-solid stability of piano notes.

As John Gordon points out, even when a piano is "correctly"
tuned, there are artifacts of the tuning process that can cause perceived
pitch variation. Each string of a piano's note will have a different decay
rate. There is a phenomenon that comes into play that is
unique to the piano's decay characteristics: a piano note has two decay
slopes; there is a relatively fast initial decay and then a point at which the
note begins to decay at a considerably slower rate. Additionally, lower
frequencies have much longer decay rates than do higher frequencies on
the piano. If one considers the fact that lower notes on the piano audibly
"excite" higher notes due acoustic interaction and connection to
the same soundboard as a function of harmonic relationships, it is easy to
see how anything less than perfect tuning would cause perceived pitch
instability. Even with ideal tuning there can be some subtle perceived
pitch variation.

Having said all that, other things to consider when trying to judge your
turntable's contribution to the perception of pitch instability are, first and
foremost, the very real possibility that if the music was recorded with
analog tape what you are hearing is partly due to the recorded pitch
instability of the tape recorder itself. But, the bottom line for me has been
that, sadly, only DD turntables offer the kind of pitch stability that I would
consider above criticism. But I say "sadly" because they have
different issues which are the subject of a different discussion.

Dougdeacon, I am intrigued by your comment about the oboe.
Frogman et al. You've made some great points. In the last instance, the most famous case of pitch instability caused by the master tape is Kind of Blue. For decades I listened to the wobbly and flat piano tones on KOB, and it was actually part of the mystique of the LP. I once listened to one side (Blue and Green) over and over again from late evening until dawn. The music exactly fit my mood. (Well, I was in college, and there was a girl who dumped me.) Then they finally told us that the tape speed was off!!! Flat because of that; wobbly because of belt-drive pitch instability. I really can't get used to the "corrected" versions played on my "issue"-less direct- and idler-drive turntables. (Joking with Frogman.)
Speaking generally, authentic/original instrument recordings are acid tests for TT pitch stability.

Many orchestral instruments were redesigned in the 19th C. to produce a more forceful, projective tone. This was done to make them audible in the larger concert halls being built to accommodate an expanding middle class audience. To my ears, these more modern instruments place more energy behind the fundamental, at the relative expense of harmonics. (Lew and I discussed this before in another context.)

The older version of such instruments had a stronger harmonic envelope relative to the fundamental. This harmonic envelope is easily distorted into an inharmonious squawk by TT speed instabilities, even if the instabilities occur over very short time frames. Speed variations that occur between strobe measurements can be audibly destructive, yet not detectable by commonly used TT speed measuring instruments.

Play a selection of Hogwood, Harnoncourt and the like. If the TT speed isn't rock solid over all time spans, you'll hear it.
Dougdeacon, you are correct in your description of the harmonic
characteristics of period vs modern instruments. The opposite is believed
to be true by some (including some musicians) because modern
instruments' apparent brilliance is sometimes assumed to be the result of
increased harmonics (relative to the fundamental), when what is often the
case is the absence (or decrease) of specific harmonics due to
manipulation in design giving the sound a less complete harmonic
structure. This less complete harmonic structure can highlight upper
partials and give the modern instrument an edgy or "brilliant"
sound. The denser, sweeter sound of many period instruments is the result
of a more complete harmonic content.

I am not so sure about your contention that this more complete harmonic
structure would make the sound of period instruments more susceptible to
a tt's speed inaccuracies as all frequencies would suffer to the same
degree. However, you are quite correct about original instrument
recordings being an "acid test" for speed stability. But, IMO, the
main reason for this is what I pointed out in my previous post; the presence
or absence of vibrato. Music performed on period instruments normally is
played with very little or no vibrato. When this music was composed,
performance practice dictated very very sparse use of vibrato; only as an
occasional color as opposed to the constant use of vibrato that is common
today. The reason for this is that, for instance, a modern violin played with
no vibrato will sound louder than an original one, but dry and lifeless
because of (as you pointed
out) the diminished overtone content.
Thanks everyone for the input - I now have a very good understanding of possible causes - never thought about the off-centre hole - good one :-)

I had always thought it was due to the tape ,machine used in the recording process.

I can see how the pure pitch of a long note and the associated harmonics would contribute to the immediate identification of speed variations - to these ears anyway.

Thanks again for the input - very enlightening.
"Lew's right.
Any stringed instrument is particularly sensitive to minute speed deviations.
When I listen to acoustic guitar on my Victor TT-101 DD turntable with unequalled speed accuracy......an off-centre record hole will be mercilessly exposed. :-(" - Halcro

Not to digress too far, but since the thread is about speed accuracy, I do believe the word "unequaled" may be a contentious one. I doubt if the Victor is unequaled, however. What measure of accuracy is it?

I do believe the word “unequalled” may be a contentious one.
Perhaps I should have elaborated….but this has been discussed in other Threads on turntable speed accuracy and I did not wish to complicate this one?
The JVC/Victor TT-101 has pretty good specs….
Wow and Flutter- within 0.02% WRMS
Speed deviation- 0.002%
Load characteristics- 0% (with a 120g total tracking force)
Drift- 0.0004%
But to me….printed specifications are meaningless when it comes to ‘actual’ performance in relation to speed accuracy and consistency?

Until recently…the concept of ‘stylus drag’ on the speed performance of a turntable…was treated with scepticism.
Then Ron Sutherland introduced the Timeline….a laser-flashing ‘puck’ which sits over the turntable spindle and has a time-base accuracy of 2 parts per million.
With this device installed………..it provided scientific evidence of the phenomenon of ‘stylus drag’ as the laser spot was seen to drift the moment the cartridge hit the record with most turntables….especially belt-drive ones.
The very best belt-drive turntables have reportedly been able to
maintain the stability of the laser dot of the Timeline…..when the speed has been adjusted with the cartridge already tracking the record. But then it is ‘out’ of adjustment when no record is being tracked?
I have not witnessed any visual evidence of these accomplishments…..they are merely empirical claims.
I have not seen nor heard of any claims regarding the speed accuracy of Idler or Rim Drive turntables using the Timeline under ‘stylus drag’ conditions.
I have tested the TT-101 under all conditions…..with and without ‘stylus drag’….and the laser dot of the Timeline does not deviate.
This test has not been reproduced successfully with 3 arms and cartridges on and off…..with any other turntable to my knowledge?
Hence my statement?
If your turntable can match this performance…..please upload the evidence to YouTube and I will revise my statement to ‘equalled but not exceeded’……:-)
How about "rarely equalled"?
But it was not I who made the claim re the Victor, altho I am sure it is excellent in respect of speed stability.
"I have not seen nor heard of any claims regarding the speed accuracy of Idler or Rim Drive turntables using the Timeline under ‘stylus drag’ conditions."

Well, now you have. :-D

A good number of people have seen the turntable do it, but I'll try get a YouTube video made shortly.
[/quote] 12-19-13: Halcro
When I listen to acoustic guitar on my Victor TT-101 DD turntable with unequalled speed accuracy......an off-centre record hole will be mercilessly exposed. :-(
Halcro - you are ready for the next big upgrade......
Nakamichi TX1000 - direct drive and self centering for eccentric records - perfect sound forever, almost as good as digital.

Using high compliance cartridges on heavy arms will exacerbate the problems of eccentric records as well.

When you have these wow/flutters variations in your turntable is time to update some points in your system.

I also recommend you a tool similar to Dr Feickert platter speed program and Adjust+ LP to check changes on values.

I usually improve these values taking care a lot the belts. You should move your non direct drive turntable everyday to avoid any kind of belt deform.

You also need to re-oil your turntable bearing.

If yo have an AC motor you need a good frequency generator to control Hz fluctuations. If you have DC there is nothing to do.

Indeed you can buy an outer ring to improve the moment of inertia, trackability and effective platter mass.

All of these points are interesting if you are a vinyl lover
Using high compliance cartridges on heavy arms will exacerbate the problems of eccentric records as well.
Some evidence or proof for this statement would be illuminating?
However, you are quite correct about original instrument recordings being an "acid test" for speed stability. But, IMO, the main reason for this is what I pointed out in my previous post; the presence or absence of vibrato.
Excellent point, Frogman.

Thanks for confirming my impression of the difference in harmonic structure between modern and older instruments. I spent 8+ years getting my system to the point where it can play (nearly) all my authentic intrument recordings without distracting levels of distortion. It requires a speed-stable TT of course, and much more. Densely packed waveforms in complex harmonic structures are ruined by almost any sort of distortion, anywhere in the system.
Well, since someone brought up the timeline again... For sure DD turntable owners like to brag about how stable the laser line stays on the wall even when dropping a tonearm or two on the record. DD tables have closed loop speed control systems. Short of dropping a brick on the platter, the speed will stay constant under varying loads. The thing is, what happens between those laser flashes is just as important. Closed loop speed control systems have their own issues, like cogging or low frequency hunting that will affect the music playback. I'm sure some of the better DD tables minimize this; but the only way to know how well it does requires a scope.
Belt drive turntables sound more musical to me. Sure the speed stability is not as good as a DD under varying loads. And I know too that my belt drive has to run 5-10 minutes to warm up in order for the speed to settle in. That is because a belt drive turntable is typically an open loop speed control. If the load changes slightly, the speed changes. So it can be expected to have to adjust speed while playing a record if you want speed to be dead on. Once the bearing and motor warm up the speed is good and stable. The belt drive turntable sounds sweeter because the motor isn't hunting around a set point. The belt drive turntable also has many more options for isolation and vibration dampening over a DD turntable. As far as torque variation while playing a record with loud passages, I showed those calculations before. With the massive platters on most belt drives, the minute torque changes have little affect on speed. As others have already noted; the center hole is the big issue with vinyl playback. Speed control on any good turntable is easily an order of magnitude better than the affects of the center hole tolerance.

And on the subject of pianos- I agree with some of the insightful comments here. I have heard live pianos sound like they have a Wow & Flutter problem. I wondered about that and I think some of the comments here answered that.
Doug and Frog, Can you define what you mean by "original" vs "modern" instruments? Are you talking about 16th century vs 20th century, or what? Surely the trumpets played by Dizzy in the 50s and in the now by Winton Marsalis, while each was selected to suit the respective tastes of the two players, are not fundamentally different in terms of vibrato (although they could be, if their tastes led them to opposite conclusions about vibrato). But I suspect you're both referring to early classical period vs 20th century.

While I myself have become permanently smitten by my Lenco and by high end direct-drive, I agree with whoever said that we should not here dredge up again the dreary arguments about belt-drive vs direct-drive. Henry, I would say it's already been shown that the Victor TT101 can be equalled by more than one other turntable (other than the Saskia) in terms of the Sutherland Timeline test. It's not so terrible to admit that, unless you're saying that failure to post documentary evidence in the form of a video on Youtube is incriminating. (Absence of proof is not proof of absence.)
Lew, "original" or "period" instruments refers to the
instruments that were in use when the particular music was composed and
applies primarily to the music of the Rennaisance and Baroque and, as you
say, the early to mid-Classical period. These may be early, less evolved
versions of instruments that we know today or intruments no longer in use
other than in early-music ensembles and no longer manufactured. By the
late 19th century most orchestral instruments had evolved in design to
essentially what they are today; relatively subtle design improvements
continue until the present. String instruments have evolved with increased
power and volume as a primary goal, brass and ESPECIALLY woodwinds
have evolve with ergonomic improvements as a primary goal in order to
facilitate the higher technical demands of more modern music composition
styles. Early woodwinds were very crude in comparison to modern
versions which have evolved to have much more ergonomic and advanced
key mechanisms and improved tuning. For instance, the chalumeau, the
predecessor of the clarinet used only two or three keys as opposed to the
modern Boehm system clarinet. Clarinet parts found in the modern
orchestral repertoire would be impossible to execute on a chalumeau.

Re vibrato: the instrument does not determine wether vibrato is used or not;
it is a technique that a player chooses to use (or not) depending on wether
the player feels it is musically appropriate or not. You are correct, the
trumpets used by Dizzy and Marsalis, while by different maufacturers, are
not fundamentally different, the instrument has not seen fundamental
design changes for quite some time, although Marsalis' "Monet"
trumpet, a very expensive ultra-high end custom instrument, in theory, has
some subtle design improvements incorporated. In theory, because these
"improvements" are not universally appreciated by musicians.

An interesting parallel between this subject and the audiophile world is that
with the advent of computer programs and analysis used in the design of
modern instruments, in order to "improve" aspects of an
instrument's character, some designers now use less of the old school
method of "if it sounds good, then it must be good" approach
and rely more on technical theory. The end result has been some real
improvements particularly in the area of tuning; but, because
"theory" often conflicts with nature's laws of acoustics and
resonance, attempts to "fool Mother Nature" in the design
process often results in compromises in those hard-to-define aspects of an
instrument's sound and personality. Many modern players prefer
instruments designed before the advent of computer modeling.
Actually, increase in tuning pitch dates back to the 17th Century. Medieval and Baroque music was generally tuned to A4 being around 400Hz. It's now standard at 440Hz.

There is a scientific tuning where middle C is 256Hz. This puts A at 430.54Hz. With this tuning octaves of C remain whole numbers all the way up and down. I don't think this has much to do with nature as musical notation, unless you're in the key of C ?

**Indeed you can buy an outer ring to improve the moment of inertia, trackability and effective platter mass.**

MOI ? This usually refers to arm/cart.
Please explain.
There is no excessive pitch wobble or instability on the original pressing of Kind of Blue. It's about a 1/4 tone flat - consistently. Wobble and inconsistency implies wow and flutter type speed variations.
Even people with perfect pitch don't have a problem with this because the relative pitch remains consistent.
Fleib, I think that you are confusing a couple of issues. First of all, while it
is true that orchestras did, in fact, tune to a lower pitch standard in earlier
(than modern) periods, that fact has little to do with the issue of the tuning
of original (period) instruments vs modern versions as it applies to this
discussion. My comments about the design changes in instrument
manufacture that improved the tuning of instruments referred to the
capability of a modern instrument to play in tune relative to itself. IOW,
early instruments (especially woodwinds and brass) had a lot of problems
with intervallic accuracy; for instance, an early clarinet or oboe may be
capable of producing a perfectly in tune "C", but because of
design imperfections the "C" an octave higher might be terribly
sharp. That is but one example of many tuning issues that a performer on
an early instrument might face. The reasons for these issues are not
simply lack of skill on the part of the designer, but also the fact that there
are certain tendencies that are governed by the laws of acoustics, which as
I am sure you know have a great deal to do with mathematics and the
imperfections in the harmonic series. Modern instrument designers have
the help of computer analysis to manipulate (to a degree) these naturally
occurring acoustic phenomena, but, often there is a downside to the
musician which relates to the issue that you bring up:

It is true that A=440 has been the defacto pitch standard for modern
orchestras, although that is changing very rapidly. First of all, European
orchestras have traditionally tuned to a higher pitch than American
orchestras. However, the trend is for American orchestras to tune to a
higher pitch as well. The NY Philharmonic tunes to A=443, Boston to
A=444; the list goes on. The reasons for this trend is primarily that tuning
to a higher pitch reference results in a more brilliant sound which is
considered more attractive or exciting the listener. Additionally, the
prevalence of visiting guest conductors who are used to the higher pitch
has a bearing, as does the possible presence in a concert hall of a pipe
organ tuned to a particular pitch. The lower pitch yields a sound that is
more opulent and rich and allows an orchestral instrument to play better in
tune relative to itself; as designed. While it is possible to tune an
instrument to a higher (or lower) pitch standard it has to be done by altering
(in the case of a woodwind or brass) the length of its tubing by either
shortening or lengthening it. All modern instruments have the
means to do this "on the fly", but the further one takes that
instrument from the ideal length of tubing (that pesky mathematics issue
again) the more that the pitch relationships between notes on that
instrument will be distorted placing more demands on the player to
compensate (via playing technique) for these pitch-relationship distortions.

Re "perfect pitch" and KOB:

****Even people with perfect pitch don't have a problem with this because
the relative pitch remains consistent. ****

That is PRECISELY why people with perfect pitch have a problem with this.
Perfect pitch is not a particularly keen sensitivity to pitch inconsistency, but
the ability to hear when a CONSISTENT pitch is too low or too high relative
to accepted standards (A=440 +/-). When a listener with perfect pitch
hears, for example, a "Bb" played or played back a quarter tone
flat that listener's brain can't process wether the key is then a flat
"Bb" or a sharp "A".

BTW, there is a lot of confusion and lore out there about the pitch issue on
KOB. The facts are these: Side one only of the original pressing of KOB
was recorded on a tape machine that was running slightly slow. Yes, it was
recorded slow, but when those pressings are played back on a turntable
running at the correct speed the end result is music that is sharp in pitch
(too fast); not flat as is often claimed.

Merry Christmas!

BTW, in case anyone read this before the correction, sorry for the
temporary misspelling of your moniker, Fleib; spellchecker strikes again :-)
Frogman, you read too much into my post. It wasn't about intonation specifically, rather accepted standard norms of tuning. When Joseph Sauveur, a 17th century physicist surveyed commonly used tunings, they ranged from middle A being at 405Hz to 421Hz. As you say, with time they've consistently crept up.

I have a musician friend with perfect pitch. KOB doesn't bother him at all. When he hears someone playing out of tune relative to the other players, that might bother him.
Absolute pitch is the ability to reproduce a note without a reference tone. SO WHAT? Do you think my friend goes crazy when an original instrument ensemble tunes to 432Hz and modern one tunes to 444? What's KOB off a 1/4 tone? You've proven my point.

Wynton Marsalis plays a Monette Bb trumpet. I believe Charles Schlueter and Terrance Blanchard also own a Monette. I don't know how much computer modeling went into the design, but the instrument allows the player to consistently play in tune maintaining better timber and more even dynamics. Early horns had no valves or keys. They were unplayable by today's standards. Although I'm not sure what you were referring to specifically, scientific advancements tend to help rather than hurt or musicians wouldn't use them.

Yes...a live piano can have vibrato if the strings are not in good tune, they can indeed sound like varying pitch. Also...A# and Bb ARE different pitches. That's one reason why string instruments are said to sound most like the human voice. A# is slightly lower than Bb. The tempered system is a compromise, but we string players always adjust for the key.
On KOB, I have not reviewed my original and apparently provocative comments, but I was referring to the conglomeration of problems with the off-speed version, which is all any of us ever heard for the first 30 years or so after it was recorded in 1957 or 58. These issues included the fact that inexpensive record players of the day were usually themselves running a bit fast or a bit slow and that they were hardly icons of speed stability under variable loads. (I wager none would pass the Timeline test.) These were mostly cheap belt-drives. Later, my first "hi-fi" turntable was an AR; we all know about it's built-in problems that contribute to pitch instability (compliant belt that stretches and contracts when the spring suspension is activated for any reason). I got used to the wobbly piano tones. Sometimes a bit flat, sometimes a bit sharp. One thing I know for sure about myself as an amateur jazz singer and as an audiophile: I don't have perfect pitch. But, as someone else mentioned, I too am very sensitive to unstable pitch. Thus, one got used to the imperfections of the original tape transfer. If you are like me, the music of KOB is kind of imbedded in your brain. That made the "corrected" version sound a bit odd at times.

I've actually cut down drastically on the frequency with which I listen to KOB, because I want to get back to the surprise I felt when first I heard it and for many playings thereafter, in my youth.
Fleib, allow me to explain. I made a comment about the tuning of
instruments and you appeared to respond to it (since no other comment
specifically about the tuning of instruments had been made up to that point)
in a way that I did not see as relevant to what was being discussed; that's
all. Then you made a comment about perfect pitch that suggested that
people with perfect pitch would not have a problem with the fast speed of
side one of KOB. This is a purely subjective thing. This "trivia"
about KBO has been a well known fact among musicians since well before
the "corrected" audiophile versions of that recording came to
be. Many a musician has been bothered by it when trying to transcribe the
solos on the record. What we are talking about is all a matter of degree.
Perhaps unimportant to some, but surely important to many. BTW, while I
am sure your friend is a fine musician, and strictly as a point of interest,
having perfect pitch is in no way an indication of superior musicianship.
Lastly, we have no disagreement about advances in instrument design
other than the fact that instruments that have these
"improvements" are not played by all musicians; quite the
contrary, many still treasure the unique tonal qualities of some of the older
"modern" instruments; many players like a certain amount of
"fight" (resistance) in their instruments.

** BTW, while I am sure your friend is a fine musician, and strictly as a point of interest, having perfect pitch is in no way an indication of superior musicianship.**

Was that necessary? Matter of fact he's a superb classical pianist and has recorded many albums under his own name. I haven't seen him in years as he spends a lot of time in Europe where he has quite a following. Many years ago he was playing jazz locally and we had a conversation on this very subject. I also have a cousin with perfect pitch. She used to tune a college choir by singing the note. Of course they can hear a different tuning, but it's usually not objectionable unless there is deviation within the ranks. How else could they listen to an orchestra tuned to a different frequency?

I wonder how the Boston Symphony can play a piano concerto tuned to A = 444Hz. They would have to tune to the piano, whatever it is.
Fleib, c'mon, was THAT necessary? Why do you assume some underlying cynicism, it was a simple comment that some may find of interest; no ulterior motive, I made that clear and simply wanted to make sure you understood my intention.

Now, re tuning: of course an orchestra tuned to A444 would not be objectionable, in absolute terms, as far as it being a deviation from some standard. However, on a recording running a quarter tone sharp that same A would sound at aproximately 453 Hz; quite a difference, I am sure you would agree, and clearly could be objectionable to someone with perfect pitch. But, that's not really the main reason why tuning drastically higher or lower is objectionable, I explained that in my previous post. It is the effect that the higher or lower tuning has on overall timbre and the way that many instruments react, response-wise, to that alteration that many players (and some listeners) find objectionable.

BTW, the piano would be tuned to whatever pitch is requested, but if the soloist insists on a lower pitch, the orchestra would oblige..

Merry Christmas!
Frogman, thank you for the fascinating and highly educational posts.

You are welcome. Happy Holidays!
You can't tune a piano but you can tuna fish. . .

Here is an attempt to show the SME 30/12 with the Sutherland TimeLine. The only other two videos of the TimeLine that I've seen are Halcro's Victor and the one on the Sutherland website.
Thanks for the Link Peterayer.....
Not a bad performance from the SME....
This is what any 'good' belt-drive table should be able to achieve?
There is a slight drift backwards of the Timeline mark from the beginning to the end.....but you will notice that he doesn't show the result when the arm is 'lifted' from the record or when it is 'dropped' on the record?
Nor are there multiple arms lifted on and off?
In my experience.....a belt-drive needs to be adjusted for correct speed with the cartridge 'tracking'.
I have yet to see one which doesn't suffer from 'stylus drag'?
Thinking about the original post and other instruments possibly used for evaluation, electronic music or electronically generated signals, comes to mind. The pitch doesn't waver on these tones unless it's done deliberately.
Depending on your musical fare, I've heard records with out of tune pianos.

Standard wow and flutter test signal is a 3150Hz tone evaluated on a wow and flutter meter. This might not be a great test for subjective evaluation unless the table needs a new belt, but electronically generated harmonics with dynamic content, might. Offhand, I can't think of a good candidate though.

BTW, my previous referral to KOB being a 1/4 tone off was off the cuff and apparently wrong. The original record is a little bit sharp.
Your DD has stylus drag as well. The only difference is that it is dealt with by the speed servos. Some belt drives have servos, some have self correcting AC motor controllers.
One could argue that the speed correction for the stylus drag in a direct drive is always working - to what effect on the music ??
In Peterayer's example he could correct the stylus drag at the begining of the record, and then any inherent problems of active speed correction are avoided.
In Peterayers example, the speed error after adjusting for stylus drag at the outset, is the VARIATION between maximum and minimum stylus drag incurred by the stylus tracking the record playing. This will be a small %age of 0.003.
In Peterayers video the record does not appear to be flat - the shadows move up and down on the record. Testing by both Bruce Thigpen with his ET tonearms and the Shure white papers on low frequency resonance confirm the existance of stylus "scrubbing" from imperfections in the groove, even apparently flat records, that cause mistracking and WOW. Shure claim resonant peaks of up to 20db, equating to 10 times increases in motion. The timing errors from this artefact would probably dwarf a timing error of a %age of 0.003.
So its all a bit nebulous really. Consistency is probably the greater virtue in terms of speed accuracy once you get a this level.
I would guess many audiophiles cant hear a speed error of that magnitude, but they are more likely to here WOW on a piano or acoustical guitar note. There are many other factors - my perception is that vacuum hold down greatly improves piano stability as does a tangential tracking tonearm - so if you are looking for perfection in timing there may be bigger gains elsewhere than chasing down a %age of 0.003.
Thank you Halcro. You are indeed correct about the SME needing to be
adjusted while the stylus is tracking the LP. There is no option for a second or
third arm on my table. So my result is basically the "real world" for
my situation. There is no doubt the a well designed DD table like the Victor can
deal with a changing load like playing three tonearms together on one LP better
than the SME. But I would hardly describe the SME, or an owner, as
"suffer(ing) from 'stylus drag'." I simply adjust the speed while
playing an LP.

In this link, you will find a discussion about the accuracy of the SME in my


Speed is slightly slow by .003% or 6/1000th of one rotation out of 73 rotations
over the course of the 5 minute video. The calculations were done by Tonywinsc
on 12/27/13.

A close examination of your Victor video also shows a slight drift to the left of
the blue tack mark over the course of the 4 minute video. You can notice this by
watching the right trailing edge of the laser dash as it moves to the left. At the
beginning of the video, the blue tack is basically in the center of the laser dash,
but after four minutes, the dash is to the left of the blue tack and just barely
touching it.

This looks to be just slightly less than the 1/2" drift that the SME does,
but it is hard to tell precisely.

I have started a thread over on WhatsBestForum which asks for submissions of
similar videos to ours in an effort to create a database of turntable speed results.
So far, your Victor and my SME videos are the only two videos that I have located
on YouTube to include in the database. Perhaps others will add videos to the
thread and database. Here is a link:


I'm hoping that the thread prompts a discussion of the differences between
various drive types and the distinction between speed accuracy and speed
stability. Clearly, your Victor excels at both. Perhaps you would like to make a
video of your TW Akustics and add it to the database.
Perhaps you would like to make a video of your TW Akustics and add it to the database.
Heh heh......unfortunately the Raven AC-2 or AC-3 is unable to be adjusted to the exact 33.33rpm with its motor controller.
Some would say this is maddening oversight?
It does however seem to maintain a uniform 'loss' of speed...if that makes any sense?
I applaud you on your SME results and your attempts to encourage others to do the same.......however I somehow doubt that many will contribute as it is just so difficult for a turntable to achieve this feat under constant stylus drag....and no-one wants to have his turntable 'publicly' exposed?
Just for the 'record'....hehe....and to comply with Peterayer's request......
HERE is a video of the TT-101 playing a record (single arm and cartridge).
At the beginning and the end....where there is silence.....the arm has not been dropped...or has been raised.
Small correction: 5.2 minutes of playing time is 173 revolutions. You dropped the "1". :)

Keep in mind that closed loop speed control systems like used in DD turntables will compensate for changes in load (such as dropping a needle on a record or raising it) and depending on the amount of torque that the motor has- the platter may hold speed even with light pressure of your finger applied to the edge. But closed loop speed control has its own design challenges.
I suspect belt drive became popular because open loop motors w/o controllers is much cheaper to execute and high mass platters do a lot to smooth out the speed variations; not to mention easier to apply isolation and dampening from vibrations. In other words- belt drive offered more bang for the buck. In the end, given the resources and proper design execution, the type of drive system becomes a moot point. I think Peter's website, if successfully populated with data from various types of turntables will reach that conclusion.
Fleib, electronically generated tones can indeed be a very good way to
judge pitch stability. This brings up an interesting issue related to the
previous discussion about the tuning of acoustic instruments, and the
"improvements" in intonation of some modern instruments, and
why these "improvements" are not always a slam-dunk and
often have a clear downside. Some modern instrument manufacturers
attempt to bend the laws of physics and acoustics in an attempt to correct
some of the traditional and naturally occurring pitch issues in acoustic
instruments. A very simple example would be this: the clarinet, being a
cylindrical vs conical (saxophone) woodwind instrument overblows the
twelfth as opposed to the octave. IOW, the first naturally occurring
overtone is an octave and a fifth. For argument's sake, lets assume that
the first (lowest) note on the instrument is a "C". The easy part
is getting the first twelfth ("G") to be fairly well in tune, then you
have to start finding the absolutely correct placement of the tone holes as
you ascend the scale. You may be able to determine a good placement of
the tonehole for the first note after "C" ("D"); but
then, because of the mathematical imperfections of the harmonic series
(and other issues) what might be a good placement of the "D"
tonehole in relation to "C" below it, that D's twelfth
("A") may be too sharp. So, what to do? Leave it that way, or
do you "force" the instrument to sound that "A" lower
in pitch by manipulating other aspects of the design by, perhaps, making
that tonehole's tube slightly taller? Some modern instrument makers strive
to "correct" all these naturally occurring problems and do so
with quite a bit of success. So what is the problem? Most players will tell
you that the more an instrument's natural tendencies have been
manipulated, the more difficult it is to play in tune within an ensemble
comprised of some of these "improved" instruments. These
intruments have less "core" in their sound because the naturally
occurring harmonics are not allowed to manifest themselves and then there
is a less-well defined pitch center. You can't fool Mother Nature! While, on
the surface, all this may seem to have little to do with the issue of pitch
(speed) stability in turntables, it should at the very least highlight how
crucial issues of pitch and intonation are in just one aspect of music
making. So, why should they be any less important in its playback?

****I'm hoping that the thread prompts a discussion of the differences
between various drive types and the distinction between speed accuracy
and speed stability. **** - Peterayer

IMO, we audiophiles don't pay enough attention to pitch issues. No one is
suggesting that we can't enjoy our music if our turntables are not spinning
at the absolutely correct speed with perfect consistency. But, considering
how we agonize over tiny differences in the tonal quality of some of our
gear, it makes no sense to not give as much consideration to pitch. Just to
give an idea of just how sensitive the human ear is to pitch variation:

We are all familiar with the routine of the oboist "giving the A" at
an orchestral concert. More times than not the oboist gives that A by
playing to an electronic tuner that is supposed to be extremely accurate. It
is not uncommon for players tuning to that oboist's A to, pretty
unanimously, feel that the A is slightly high or low; this in spite of the fact
that the electronic tuner is saying that it is dead accurate. The human ear
can tell when the pitch is leaning one way or the other before our
measuring equipment can.

I have never used any technical method for judging my turntables' speed
stability other than an occasional strobe disc, choosing instead to set my
motor controller's frequency by ear and the use of recorded reference
pitches that I then check the tuning of. To the naysayers that feel that
absolutely correct speed accuracy AND stability are not important, I would
say that they are missing out on a significant amount of what the
performances on their LP's have to offer on MUSICAL grounds because of
the very profound effects that inaccurate speed accuracy has on the
musical intent of a recorded performance and the equally profound effect of
poor speed stability on the rhythm and timing of a performance. The same
way that the tuning "A" can be distorted to a degree that the ear
can detect while an electronic tuner can't, the effects of poor speed stability
on the rhythmic feeling of the music can be distorted in ways that are
subtle, and while not obvious in the usual sense, can make the difference
in our emotional reaction to the music.
Halcro, thanks for posting that new video. Love the music and the results are
most impressive.

I agree with Dover that once a certain level of speed accuracy is achieved, other
issues become much more relevant. Speed CONSISTENCY, or what happens
between TimeLine flashes, is one, as are the others mentioned above.

I've just added a video of my old DD Denon DP-45F on my WBF thread database
and results are poor. I'll shortly add a video of my friend's Technics SP10 MK2a.
The Denon is not a particularly good turntable, but it was fun to bring it out of
storage and have a listen. It spun lots of Led Zep back in my college days.
Just added the video of the Technics SP10 MK2a. The results are as impressive as with Halcro's Victor. Here is a link:

Thanks Peterayer....and thanks also for the Video of the SP10Mk2A.
It is indeed a fine result with the Timeline.
As steady as the TT-101.....
I couldn't connect with your Link to the Denon?
Any chance of posting it here?
Frogman, I'm not familiar, in a practical way, with the note bending potential of straight barreled woodwinds. I get your point about changing the sound of a clarinet and I assume, since you brought it up, that it could present a problem within a section using both traditional and corrected instruments. As to "fooling mother nature" I'm skeptical. Correcting the interval of one note does not change the basic sound of the instrument. This is an instrument that plays one note at a time and it's the job of the musician to play it in tune. Seems to me some clarinets are cars and you're telling those players using them, to get a horse.

On the other hand, perhaps a note bent by the musician has a slightly different and more desirable flavor than one produced on a corrected instrument? Maybe so.

I always thought perfect pitch was something one had to be born with, to possess, and ear training was limited to relative pitch. Turns out, perfect pitch can be learned. Check this out:

**The human ear can tell when the pitch is leaning one way or the other before our measuring equipment can.**

It's not only pitch it's also location. Phase has a lot to do with location and speed obviously effects phase. Turntable speed effects everything. There's no way around it. Wow and flutter results in harmonic distortion. Some of us are pretty good hearing relative pitch. That's how we tell if the piano is wavering or the chord is changing pitch or someone is out of tune.

Absolute speed error is something most of us can get used to and eventually becomes our reference standard. I had a pre-Valhalla LP-12. It ran something like 1% fast. It didn't take long for everything else to sound lifeless in comparison. I became aware of this and sold it. I got a Goldmund DD and eventually got used to "correct" speed. Just as KOB record was not objectionable in relative terms, the old LP12 (or some other popular belt drivers) succeed on their colorations.

Enough of this for now. Everybody have a happy new year.

I plan to start a TimeLine database thread on Audiogon. Look in the Analog forum.
Fleib, we could go much much more in-depth with some of these topics and so far only the surface has been scratched here. But, you are correct in that it's probably "Enough of this for now". If there is further interest on your, or anyone else's, part I would be glad to delve deeper into this. I would simply say that if you are interested you research the prices that vintage flutes and saxophones fetch compared to new ones; there is a reason for this and it has nothing to do with collectors. Anyway, the main reason that I feel any of this is relevant to our audio hobby is as a reminder of just how deep some of this stuff runs, and that at the end of the day all our audiophillic endeavors relate back to the MUSIC, and what takes place in the the process of music making. There are many parallels between what an audiophile concerns himself with and what a musician does. There is a tendency to want the new and the more technologically advanced to be "better", and to rely on technology to exlain most of what we hear. I believe that there is an unavoidable (at least to a degree) conflict between what the essence of music is and some of what technology brings to the table. To recognize this is not being a Luddite or anything of the sort; it's simply respecting the fact that, ultimately, what separates music from simply sound, the emotion, can't be broken down to nor fully explained by numbers.

****I always thought perfect pitch was something one had to be born with, to possess, and ear training was limited to relative pitch. Turns out, perfect pitch can be learned.****

Precisely one of the reasons for my comment about it not being an indication of superior musicianship, since a lot of these things are often shrouded in mystery and many feel that perfect pitch is an indication of musical genius of some kind.

Happy New Year!